Gladys Wright

New directions in the Living Field project

SCRI’s widely respected educational project on the public understanding of science, established with charitable grants of £100k, now provides a range of IT aids, a demonstration garden, all-weather facilities and a study centre. It plans expansion to reach a wider public, while keeping its roots in the excitement of discovery.

Photograph of artist in residence Ronnie Forbes and helper - from the Living Field collectionThe idea of the Living Field project arose in 2001 out of a series of SCRI roadshows, in which scientists met the public in hands-on demonstration and discussion of biodiversity, gene flow, new crops and biological aliens. We learnt there were many people who wanted to know about the fields, food, crops, soil and ecosystems of the arable lowlands, but that roadshows alone would not reach enough people. The Living Field therefore looked to reach a wider audience. A small grant in 2002 allowed us to appoint a first Living Field officer working one day a week, and then to host the secondment of a teacher to SCRI to plan and develop materials. From then it grew.

Set aside experiments 1989-1997

Field experiments on set aside were funded by the UK government and managed by ADAS at Boxworth, Drayton, Gleadthorpe, and High Mowthorpe between 1989 and 1997. Each site consisted of replicated small plots on which a range of set aside treatments, including natural regeneration and various sown covers, were established for five years, after which most of the plots returned to arable cropping. Several plots remained in arable cropping throughout the period as a comparator.

SCRI's contribution was initiated by Harry Lawson, now retired, and consisted of measuring the seedbank by the extraction method at the beginning, after the five years of set aside and after two further years following return to arable cropping. The experiment demonstrated the strong effect of local conditions on the arable seedbank, notably that the seedbank can be amplified or suppressed by the management imposed largely irrespective of the species present. The results contributed to the understanding of the seedbank's role as both the weed burden and the arable plant biodiversity.

Contact: Geoff Squire

The Talisman low input experiments 1990-1996

TALISMAN was series of experiments funded by the UK government and managed by ADAS at High Mowthorpe, Drayton and Boxworth between 1990 and 1996. Each site consisted of replicated small plots in which crops of cereals and breaks were grown at full and half doses of herbicides, fungicides, insect pesticides and fertiliser.

SCRI's contribution was initiated by Harry Lawson, now retired, and consisted of measuring the seedbank in high and reduced herbicide plots. The seedbank was measured by the extraction method from cores of soil taken before the treatments were applied and after three and six years. In some reduced herbicide treatments, the seedbank increased more than 100-fold after the six years. Treatments and sites were compared in terms of seedbank community parameters derived from species-accumulation and similar devices. The results contributed to the understanding of the seedbank's role as both the weed burden and the arable plant biodiversity.

Papers and reports

Squire, G.R., Roger, S., Wright, G. 2000. Community-scale seedbank responses to less intense rotation and reduced herbicide input. Annals of Applied Biology 136, 47-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-7348.2000.tb00008.x

Environment Plant Interactions

Image of the SCRI site looking towards the River TaySCRI's environmental science research spans across disciplines to gain a holistic understanding of how plants respond to and modify environmental processes. Scottish Government commissioned research is gaining an in-depth understanding of the environment in arable farming systems and this is being used to advise on policy development in Scotland. These skills have also been applied to emerging issues relevant to the UK and Europe, including the UK’s Farm Scale Evaluations, international working groups, IPDM-based alternatives to pesicides and EU-wide studies on the ecological impacts of GM plants.

The environment and the ecology of plants and pests are our key research areas, investigated by a strong multidisciplinary team of scientists in entomology, pathology, plant sciences, vegetation ecology, phytochemistry, mathematical modelling and soil sciences. A major area of interest is integrating processes that occur above ground and in the soil. Research conducted on plant interactions with soil has extended from the understanding of sustainable arable systems to ‘green’ engineering solutions for slope stabilisation with vegetation.

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